Saturday, August 23, 2014

Will You Watch My Cupcake?

I've been in Texas now for 17 days. I'm down to just one box left that's aptly labeled "stuff" and sits in the "office." The books are shelved (and shoved into oven drawers)... the pictures are hung... the  frames filled with my favorite people... the internet is connected... and the cats have finally stopped singing the song of their people at 3am. My appreciation for technology has increased ten-fold thanks to the advent of FaceTime, texts, and social media. Without it, I would probably have driven back "home" to see those favorite people. I started a new job to help pay the bills and I've been doing my best to get myself into a normal routine (As normal as someone like me can attempt to be).

But since this is me and I don't lie... Yeah, I'm homesick. And the funny thing is the realization that I don't express being homesick like most people would. Yesterday afternoon I completed all 120+ episodes of The Wonder Years. I started the series when I had my surgery and made it through the late 1960s and early 1970s up until yesterday morning. Any normal person would have watched the final episode... the infamous 4th of July episode... and said, "well that was a good show." Me? No. I didn't take that route. I screamed at the television "What the hell Kevin and Winnie?!? You're supposed to be together forever! F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!" I cried for almost 30 minutes to at which point I questioned my sanity. Why was I so worked up over the end of a television storyline? Why was I having a complete come-apart over, essentially, nothing? (You have to give me credit though- she cheated on Kevin. That will melt even the iciest of hearts). 

In the pursuit of questioning my sanity I realized I was crying because it was one valid reason I could give myself to just "let it all out." I used the tumultuous relationship of Arnold v. Cooper to pour my own emotions into. They were my "homesick scapegoat." Tears shed over the lost baby ducklings video on Facebook? Scapegoats. Weeping while singing "Hero" by Mariah Carey? Unfortunate scapegoat. The sniffles over the consecutive Yankees losses? Legitimate tears. (I'm emotionally invested in baseball to unnatural levels.) What I couldn't put my finger on was why I was homesick. My parents, brother and sister-in-law live here. How can I be homesick when I have my family here with me (2 towns over... let's not get too crazy)? The reason: I don't know things/people and they don't know me.

I don't know my way around these streets. I don't know where the aisles in the grocery store are to find my staple foods and make a run for it. I don't know where the good restaurants are. I don't know what the bumper stickers mean on the back of cars that cut me off on the interstate because people drive like maniacs down here. I don't know the radio stations. I don't know my neighbors (that's not an exaggeration either). And today I realized one huge thing: people don't know me. I have been focusing on " I don't know" and "I need to know" but I left out a key counterpoint to that fact. And it came about in the most random way possible today.

A man at work asked me to watch his cupcake.

Who in their right mind is going to ask ME to watch a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and little white edible pearls on top? Who honestly thinks that upon their return an hour later (or, a minute or two later) that their delectable treat will still be there and they won't just find me licking the empty wrapper? The only person naïve enough to ask such a question and to take such a risk is one who doesn't know me. They don't know that I would eat my own arm if it was covered in frosting. They don't know that I can't be trusted with baked goods- ever. Especially when I'm living in a glass case of emotion as I have been for almost 3 weeks now. The life of his cupcake was in grave danger. He stood no chance in getting it back. But then I had to think to myself... He doesn't know. And now is your chance to "introduce yourself" to people in a manner that will really highlight your personality. And unfortunately your lack of trustworthiness around sweets.

After building a small fort of legal pads around his cupcake and turning my back on it in my swivel chair, I resigned to the fact that I was not going to eat it. That I would not taint the one chance I had to turn to this guy and say, "Hey. I didn't eat your cupcake and that's kind of a big deal for me. So you're welcome. I'm Kristen by the way. I'm a sugar addict going on about 28 years now."

Unfortunately, he came back a couple of hours later and I said, quite proudly might I add, "Hey! I'm Kristen in case I forgot to introduce myself. And your cupcake is under the yellow paper fort over there. You can check. Not a bit of it missing." I knew he was going to be so thankful. I knew that he would appreciate the hard work and self-restraint I went through to "play nice with others" and "treat others how I would want to be treated" since he didn't know me. He looked at me with shock in his face (here it comes, I know what he's about to say!!) "Oh. I forgot about it. You could have had it I guess. Um, thanks." He took the cupcake and walked away.

I physically lifted my jaw back up.

I misjudged that scenario in every which way I could have possibly misjudged something. Didn't the look of pride on my face say anything as a testament to the loyalty I had just shown to someone who entrusted a stranger with one of the beautiful wonders of the world? Had he no mercy? Had he no shame? And I never got his name. Obviously, every time I see him from now on I will think of him as the man that willingly deprived me of a free cupcake. And I will simply be the girl who "watched his cupcake" for him. He didn't want to know anything about me. What happened to that stupid song we sang as kids about gold, silver, making friends, and a couple of shapes thrown in for a verse or two? I really felt defeated. There was a golden opportunity to make a friend in someone and I was not only denied an introduction... but also a cupcake.

Perhaps it was my sad face as I watched this guy just walk away from my desk. Perhaps it was the puddle of drool that had accumulated below. Or maybe rumors had spread about the cupcake fort I built to which I occasionally whispered:"I'm stronger than you." Whatever the reason, someone came up to my desk and said, "Hey. There are no more cupcakes but they just brought out hot dogs and burgers into the break-room if you want to head back with me."

Would you look at that? Someone picking up where another person left off (in an epic fail fashion). Someone reaching out to me, "the new girl," and offering me some food and trying to make small talk. I'm not going to sugarcoat (every pun intended) my feelings about it. I was excited. I thanked him so much and told him I appreciated the heads up. I looked forward to getting to know him a bit better. And for him to get to know me better too.

Because I don't eat meat.

There's a lot of things I have to get used to down here. The introductions and the indifferences. The weird street designs and the water towers. The neighbors that never come of out their apartments and the guys at work that offer you a burger. The ache I have while missing "home" and trying to find my way "home" without navigational assistance every day. Remember that I didn't give up on a dream when I left Nashville, I just brought the dream west. And while people may not know me, I know myself well enough to know:

It will all get better... with the help of cupcakes.

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